Poetry is just the evidence of life

If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. (Keen readers may wish to attempt to identify the quotations hidden in the following article. (Answers on a postcard please.)

We probably don’t spend enough time reading poetry.  I probably spend too long intending to read it but then never getting round to it despite having a poem delivered to my inbox every single day.  Poetry is a road less travelled.  So, as we see a host of golden daffodils springing up along our river banks and in our gardens, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to this noble art form.  As this week spring turned to the sunlight, and shook her yellow head it should therefore come as no surprise that next week is our Poetry Week and March 21 is World Poetry Day.

Here at the BSP poetry is alive and well and we look forward to celebrating it next week in class and out.  We will be treated to Dylan Thomas on Monday morning in our Senior School assembly and on Wednesday we will enjoy pupil poetry in English lessons.  We hope to share with you soon our entries of the COBIS poetry competition; words of mercury indeed.

Poetry we are told is good for us and I hope that it is fun, for as we also know fun is good.  The success of Poems on the Underground (now in its 31st year) suggests that whilst we don’t often pick up a poetry book we do like bumping into poetry.  It gives the weary commuter the opportunity to engage in a moment’s reflection. This month the following can be found in a tube car near you:  Fear no more the heat o’ the sun by William Shakespeare, Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden , Delay by Elizabeth Jennings,  And suddenly it’s evening  by Salvatore Quasimodo, trans. by Jack Bevan, Green the land of my poem  from Mural by Mahmoud Darwish, trans by Rema Hammami and John Berger and  Otherness is All, Otherness is Love by Yehuda Amichai, trans. by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld.   Something for everyone, from old favourites to unfamiliar encounters.  Poetry gives us the chance to see through other eyes,  to experience before we understand. 

A quick chat about poetry in the Senior School lunch queue today suggests that pupils know a good deal about poetry and indeed that we have our fair share of poets.  Truly it is before, behind, between, above, below. During the recent tour of the Senior School with parents of Year 5 and 6 pupils we encountered not only iambic pentameter, and iambic trimeters but also iambic tetrameters; perhaps more crucially we could see the utter delight that comes from reading and reciting poetry to each other.  This has to be a good thing and perhaps we as adults should make time for a little poetry, be it on a ‘phone, in a book or on a wall.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, one might say and with that I am off to stand on the river bank where I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

Whilst I can promote poetry in the coming week I feel that on St. Patrick’s Day I should leave the final words to Seamus Heaney.

“Every time you listen to another person reading out a poem, in school or on a stage or in a studio, every time you read a poem aloud to yourself or in the presence of others, you are also reading it into yourself and them. Voice helps to carry words farther and deeper than eye. These recordings maintain a tradition of oral performance that is as old as the art of poetry itself.”

Seamus Heaney on Poetry and Performance

Nicholas Hammond

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